Mad Max (George Miller / Australia, 1979):

Marinettiís lyrical mecha-fascismo, "the racing car whose hood is adorned with great pipes like serpents of explosive breath," George Miller finds this and more in the Outback highway. A sign marked "Anarchie Road" points up the connection to A Clockwork Orange, the Australian state "a few years from now" is likewise an ancient collision (sagebrush marauders against lawmen) evoked in grungy terms (Glory Riders versus the Bronze). Into Wee Jerusalem rides a roistering motorcade led by the Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne), their depredations are answered by the vigilance of Max (Mel Gibson) and Goose (Steve Bisley). The cycle of hunter and prey accelerates and disfigures: "That rat circus out there," warns the haunted guardian, "Iím beginning to enjoy it." Life after the apocalypse is a droll derangement of genre archetypes, the schoolmarm (Joanne Samuel) welcomes the hero home with a saxophone solo while the captain (Roger Ward) tends to an indoor garden with a black ascot over his bare chest. Millerís bruisers are not made for repose, however, theyíre more like comets in perpetual malefic motion, the crazier the better. A future of endless horizontal sprawls and hopped-up gearheads is the perfect fit for the keen novice director, his camera hurtles from one asphalt jockey to another to capture the slapstick of crisscrossing vehicles. (The stylistic credo, loud and proud, is declared early on: "Rip the guts out of it! Give it the bejeezus!") The groundwork is by Fellini (Toby Dammit) and Rush (The Savage Seven), the editing is a fiendish inspiration: When the world is an eternal chase, a split-second cut is all that separates the protagonistís vengeful windshield glare and the villainís eyes popping onto a truckís rapacious grill. Amid all this rust and leather is the battered flesh of the increasingly bedeviled Max, the young Gibson in the first of his Old Testament endurance runs. The mad irony is a staple of Aussie guerilla filmmaking becoming a blueprint for Hollywood blockbusters, though no imitation can compete with the grindhouse jaggedness of Millerís original pursuit. Cinematography by David Eggby. With Tim Burns, Geoff Parry, Reg Evans, and Sheila Florance.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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